Former ITV head of sport Farmer dies after cancer battle

UPDATED WITH FUNERAL DETAILS:  Monday, November 5, 12.30pm.  Streetly Crematorium,  296 Little Hardwick Road, Streetly, Walsall,  WS9 OSG. Followed by Moor Hall Golf Club, B75 6LN. No flowers requested. Donations to Marie Curie

Former ITV head of sport Jeff Farmer has died at the age of 79 after a two-year battle with cancer.

Farmer, a lifelong West Bromwich Albion fan, started in local newspapers before becoming Midlands correspondent for the Daily Sketch in 1965, which merged with the Daily Mail in 1970.

He was recruited as sports editor of what was then known as Central TV in 1981 by Gary Newbon.

Farmer became editor of ITV’s football output and was senior producer for the 1986 and 1990 World Cups and had an executive role in 1994 and 1998, which included England’s match against Argentina.

In 2004 he became a non-executive director and PR consultant for his beloved West Brom but quit a week after Roberto Di Matteo was sacked as head coach.

Former Daily Mail sports editor Tom Clarke said: “When I joined the Daily Mail as sports editor in 1975, I inherited Jeff Farmer as our football man in the Midlands. He was the best – a great story-finder and match reporter. He could get stories out of Brian Clough even when Clough was on contract with The Sun.

“When Jeff left in 1981 to go into television, he did the Mail a real favour by nominating his successor, Ray Matts, and then guiding Ray through his first few months in the job. Jeff also did me a personal favour by remaining a good friend, golfing and racing and holidaying together with our wives.”

Farmer, Clarke, Scovell, Harris at a recent lunch

Harry Harris last saw Farmer at a reunion lunch with Clarke and Brian Scovell.  Harris said: “I knew Jeff well but not really that well as he was on the Midlands beat when I was at the Mail in London.

“However, I had a much more intimate relationship when he was on the Board at West Brom, and I needed to establish accuracy of facts for articles or gain access to the then West Brom owner/chairman.  He was the ultimate professional as a journalist but also did quite a bit for journalists such as myself when he was at his beloved West Brom.”

Another Mail colleague, and chairman of the SJA writing awards Peter Jackson said: “Shortly before I joined the Mail almost 45 years ago, they sent me to spend a day with Jeff Farmer which included watching him in action at Villa Park that night, a rare privilege of seeing a master at work in the art of the running match report. I felt like a signwriter who’d been pulled in off the street and given a seat next to Michelangelo.   

“There wasn’t anything Jeff couldn’t do and that included, if memory serves me right, a wonderful piece alongside Brian Clough on the bench the night Forest won the European Cup. I was so in awe of him I almost quit before I started. My sincere condolences to Kath and the family at this desperately sad time.”